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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Unrivaled

Most indelible image ever.

Most indelible image ever.

Vic Black’s my kind of Met. I haven’t felt this kind of simpatico with a September callup reliever since Julio Machado arrived 24 years ago and brushed back Tom Pagnozzi, his very first batter. True, things didn’t work out so well for Machado in the long term, but he knew how to announce his presence with authority…at least until the Venezuelan authorities got hold of him for a crime far worse than coming in high and tight on a Cardinal catcher.

Black hasn’t been quite so bold since arriving from Pittsburgh’s suddenly fertile farm system, but he’s put Cholula on the ball, he’s thrown it by plenty of batters and, as he proved Tuesday night in Cincinnati, he might very well be the Closer of the Future (sorry Bobby Parnell, we have conveniently short memories when it suits our whims).

But that’s not why I’m into Vic Black at the moment. We’ve had our share of Closers of the Future who eventually disappeared like Derek Wallace or receded into a sad state of Heilmanhood. I’m into Vic Black because of what he told reporters following the notching of his first Met save.

“We never liked the Reds.”

Huh? A player admitting disdain for a particular opponent? A veritable five minutes after his promotion? They can do that?

Mind you, Black was smiling when he said it, but he was serious. The “we” in question wasn’t the Mets, but his family. The Texan explained he has an uncle who had a particular distaste for Cincinnati’s baseball enterprise; young Vic simply adopted it and apparently relishes it. Closing out a game that did damage to the Reds’ playoff position was an achievement that rose above clichéd icing on the cake. It was, in a promising touch of Dickeyspeak, “watering that flower of hatred.”

I will not be kissing Vic Black, but I almost want to. Yes! Those guys on the other team…HATE THEM! Not hate to a point where you’re Julio Machado in a rage and going to prison for it, but don’t be blasé about your opponents. Pick a team and make them your rival.

Hey Vic, I still hate the Cubs the way you hate the Reds. I picked up on hating the Cubs when I was six. They were the nasty bear on the back page of the Post my father brought home from the city every night. The Mets were the duck. Together they represented the National League East race, my first chance to choose sides. Of course I chose the duck. The duck was from New York. I was from New York. The duck was lovable. The bear was unlikable. The Mets trailed the Cubs. They passed them.

And I still hate the Cubs from that seminal exposure. I hated them in 1970 when both they and the Mets unsuccessfully chased the Pirates. I hated them in 1973 when — spoiler alert! — they were the last obstacle between us and a second division title. I hated them in 1979 when they were atrocious but we were more so. Oh, how I hated them in 1984 for turning 1969 on its head; I took special pleasure in the Pirates clinching their 2013 playoff berth at Wrigley Field because I ruefully remember the Cubs clinching theirs 29 years ago at empty Three Rivers Stadium, thereby ending a beautiful Met dream.

I relished stomping on the disintegrating Cubs in the summer of 1985, sweeping them four straight at Shea, a series the AV squad capped off by blasting “The Night Chicago Died” loud enough to intrude on Tim McCarver’s postgame report. I hugged and high-fived that much more forcefully because we clinched our 1986 N.L. East title in their ursine faces — take THAT, Chico Walker! I was extra disgusted that we finished second to them instead of Pagnozzi’s Cardinals (about whom I’m still not crazy) in 1989. I laughed hysterically at Brant Brown dropping a fly ball in 1998, grumbled mightily that they won the Wild Card over us days later and Sheadenfreuded in my heart when Steve Bartman showed better defensive form than Moises Alou in 2003.

Nine years ago today I danced a jig in my soul as Victor Diaz took LaTroy Hawkins over the wall at Shea and sunk the hearts of probably 20,000 Cubs fans in my midst. I literally skipped to the 7 train on the afternoon of May 17, 2007, when the Mets scored five in the ninth to stun the Cubs, 6-5. And on June 16, 2013, when the Mets and I were as mopey as we’ve ever been together, Kirk Nieuwenhuis raised Western Civilization to new heights and we as a people experienced a spiritual renaissance that lasted clear to the final week of July.

Yeah, I still have no use for the Phillies and Braves in the same way I have no use for the Cardinals. Those are legacy hatreds, but they feel too recent to fully resonate in my deepest, darkest recesses and the Mets were lousy at keeping up their end of the bargain against them on the field. The Marlins are the Marlins, which speaks a volume or two, but they’re also just the Marlins. The Nationals’ existence is grating, but we’ve never competed for anything but our dignity with them (which we lost two weeks ago). Current era of good Bucco feeling notwithstanding, I haven’t forgotten Pirates fans howling obscenities at Lenny and HoJo in the summer of 1988 — or the idiot who sat behind me in May who incessantly repeated “C’mon Cutch!” for nine miserable innings — but to mine the residue of that scab at this late date seems counterproductive.

And yes, the Yankees. But that’s the other league.

What I guess I’m saying is if I was reincarnated as a hard-throwing youngster just called up to the hopelessly out-of-it Mets and I had my choice of impeding any team’s playoff plans, it would be those of the Cubs. Can’t water that flower enough.

9 comments to Unrivaled

  • As a diehard Brooklyn Dodger fan, I hates the Giants (sorry Greg), but starting in 1962, when I gave my soul to the Mets, I particularly hated the Houston Colt 45s, the Mets rival for new team pains, and that never went away, through all their years of Astrohood, until they finally slunk out of the National League.

    • otb

      I, too, am a diehard Brooklyn Dodger fan, but I don’t really hate the Giants anymore. When they compete with the Dodgers for a division title I will root for the Dodgers, but not with the hatred I felt for Leo Durocher’s Giants (I still remember Carl Furillo attacking Durocher in the Giants’ dugout, with, according to legend, some Giants urging Furillo to “Kill him, Carl”).

      But today, I don’t feel much hatred for any National League team, not even the Phillies. Like Greg, I feel a certain pleasure at seeing the Pirates back in contention, and I’d like to see them go far in the post season. Besides, that ballpark is maybe the most beautiful in all baseball, at least from what I can see on the tube. But my true hatred is reserved for just one franchise, and they play in the Bronx. The Cubs? They’re sort of a lovable, loopy franchise, with a wonderful old ballpark, and lots of tradition, even if so much of their recent history is one of failure. And who can hate a team that had Ernie (“Let’s play 2″) Banks at one time?

      • Ernie Banks is the exception that proves the rule. He gets a pass, even if he was present at the creation of my animosity.

        The Astros…I can totally see that, 10-2 bastards from 1969 that they were.

  • Dave

    As I’ve been saying for years, the Braves hate the Mets, the Phillies hate the Mets, the Marlins hate the Mets, the Yankees hate the Mets, and the Mets hate no one. So Vic Black might be my new favorite player, even if this disdain for a different uniform has nothing to do with the one he’s wearing.

    The 10 year old me hated Durocher’s Cubs, but I’m with otb, I now find them too sad to hate (and I love Wrigley).

    • 9th string catcher

      Good point, Dave. The Mets about sportsmanship, I think. Even the broadcasters will point out the positives of the competitors and be critical of their own team, rather than endlessly shill for the home team. I believe the fans are pretty similar. (I only have true hatred for the New England Patriots).

  • The Mets could really use an edgy type at this time.David Wright and Daniel Murphy are classy guys but neither of them brings the fiery attitude this team severely needs.It’s too bad Jordany Valdespine did not turn into that guy because he certainly had the physical skills and the fiery personalty to be that guy.

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  • […] Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and John Buck. Buck would be traded for Black, who earned his first major league save on a night in September when Hawkins needed a rest. LaTroy gave Vic his blessing, having played […]